City fines Abengoa

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Abengoa Bioenergy got no extra time to comply with new regulations for industrial waste water treatment customers, but they could have fines forgiven if they are in compliance by Oct. 15.

Portales city councilors voted Tuesday at their regular meeting to find Abengoa in non-compliance of an ordinance passed last fall setting limits for discharge into the city’s wastewater treatment stream for industrial users. The ordinance provides for a fine of $1,000 a day. City officials say the ethanol producer became non-compliant as of May 11.

Chris Standlee, vice president of Abengoa Bioenergy, based in St. Louis, was on hand at the meeting to press for more time to complete the changes needed at the plant to comply and to ask fines be suspended.

He said a major component of that work would be complete by July 31, but also said other changes would take until Oct. 15.

Stanley pointed to a section of the ordinance noting a reasonable amount of time allowed for industries to come into compliance.

“It was our impression and belief that our timeline had been approved,” Stanley said. “We think we need some reasonable amount of time for us to meet the requirements of this ordinance.”

Mayor Orlando Ortega Jr. bristled at the idea that Abengoa believed it had more time.

“We were hoping you would have representatives at that meeting (in March) but you did not,” Ortega said. “It was very clear at that meeting that we had not accepted your timeline.”

City Attorney Steve Doerr pointed out Abengoa had eight months after the city adopted the ordinance before the permit had to be submitted. He said the company was aware even before that of the impending limits.

“There comes a point when you have to draw a line,” Ortega said. “You have to do something or we’ll all be run out of town.”

Ortega recommended the fines be imposed but kept in a separate interest-bearing account. If the company is in compliance by Oct. 15 the council would consider refunding the fines. That measure passed unanimously.

In other business councilors:

• Re-appointed David Hunton to one of the two community seats on the Roosevelt County Community Development Corp. They tabled decision on the second seat.

• Heard a report from the city works director on the May 20 water main break.

• Heard a report from the chief of police on plans to install new emergency warning sirens and a reverse 911 system.

• Approved an notice of intent to adopt a revised solid waste ordinance.

• Renewed a contract for drug testing services.